It seems to be the calm before the storm… Maybe that explains all the 🌬🍃 imagery recently?
© 2017 Meraki
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Qin Sang seemed to have lost all her strength as she slumped slightly back against the sofa.
He stretched out a hand as though he wanted to touch her cheek. He did not, in the end. The room was so quiet that the sound of the wind blowing outside was audible, one keening gust after another, like the sound of someone crying. Perhaps it was snowing again, or perhaps it was the trees outside as they brushed against the windows with a rustling sound. Her face was pale and only her lips had a hint of red. Her figure — so frail it was almost childlike — was vulnerable and disconsolate. But she was not looking at him. In her heart, she knew as well that it was futile. Moreover, this was such a dangerous place especially when Yi Liankai could return at any time. He could not have been willing to say so much to her but she had driven him to it — driven him with her words.
He withdrew his hand. The gentle mistiness in his eyes had disappeared; his expression had gradually recovered and become calm: ‘I should go, otherwise Zhu Ma will start to wonder.’
She finally nodded slowly. He turned round, walked to the door, unlocked it and walked straight out.
Zhu Ma had gone downstairs to get some dim sum and after some time, she came back up bearing a red lacquer tray. On it was a bowl of shredded chicken noodles, some side dishes and a plate of steamed buns stuffed with chicken hearts. When she entered the room with the steaming¹ bowl of noodles, she saw Qin Sang sitting alone, nose red, as though she had been crying.
¹ 熱氣騰騰 rèqì-téngténg: steaming hot. If you’re not reading this chapter at MerakiTranslations, it has been stolen and reproduced by bootleg websites.
Worried that she was angry because of Yi Liankai, Zhu Ma thus put down the tray and grumbled: ‘Master is also too much. Even if he isn’t coming back for dinner, he should at least telephone home. It looks like it’s going to snow again and he ought to spare a thought for you at home, waiting and worrying about him.’
For her part, Qin Sang seemed a little distracted, still preoccupied with her own thoughts. Zhu Ma said: ‘Missy, do eat something. Even if you don’t feel like it, you mustn’t let the baby go hungry…’
Such a remark was not worth mentioning but upon hearing it, Qin Sang felt even more burdened², hence she frowned and replied: ‘Zhu Ma, I don’t feel like eating. Clear all this away.’
² 愁腸百結 chóucháng-bǎijié: hundred knots of worry in one’s intestines (idiom); weighed down with anxiety. Translation originally published at tranzgeek(DOT)wordpress(DOT)com.
‘Even if you don’t feel like it, you ought to eat a little bit,’ Zhu Ma said coaxingly. ‘You were supposed to have lunch with Miss Yao but ended up not eating. If you don’t have a little dinner, you might feel worse later.’
Qin Sang was extremely irritated. After observing her expression, Zhu Ma left the tray on the table and, with an air of minding her own business, went out of the room. She had just neared the staircase when she heard the sound of the telephone ringing, long and repeatedly. She thought that it must be Yi Liankai specially calling to say he wouldn’t be coming home for dinner so she teetered down the stairs in her bound feet, with the intention of answering it. Before she could reach the bottom of the stairs, the call had been taken by another servant who, after listening for a short while, looked up and asked: ‘Zhu Ma, is Young Mistress asleep? It’s the city defence command calling°. They say they have something urgent to tell Young Mistress.’
Zhu Ma found this strange. Since it was a call from the city defence command, it must be about official business but they would usually look for Yi Liankai. If they couldn’t reach him, then at most they would speak with his secretary or his adjutant. Hence she said, ‘Young Mistress is still up. I’ll go ask her to connect the line.’
A telephone had originally been installed in Qin Sang’s room but Yi Liankai had disconnected it for fear it would disturb her rest. Whenever she wanted to use the telephone, she would have to plug in the line. After another exchange on the telephone, the servant hastily hailed Zhu Ma and said, ‘I’ll just inform Adjutant Pan rather than disturb Young Mistress.’
Zhu Ma thought nothing more of it. She continued downstairs and procured a plate of green plums that she brought upstairs. Qin Sang, seeing her with the plums, was caught between amusement and annoyance³ and said, ‘I don’t feel like eating those.’
³ 啼笑皆非 tíxiào-jiēfēi: lit. not to know whether to laugh or cry (idiom). Please consider reading from MerakiTranslations rather than at bootleg websites.
Zhu Ma said: ‘Sour for boys, spicy for girls. If you don’t feel like sour food, perhaps it’s a little Missy?’
Qin Sang, already fretting, was hardly in the mood to joke around with her about such things so she only frowned and said, ‘Leave it, leave it. Go get me a cup of hot tea.’
Zhu Ma was just about to do so when someone called out ‘Report’ from outside. It was Pan Jianchi.
As they had just spoken in secret, Qin Sang was feeling guilty and couldn’t help being startled. After a pause, she asked, ‘What is it?’
Pan Jianchi answered: ‘There’s an urgent matter and I’ve come to ask for leave.’
Qin Sang, much mystified, said, ‘Come in then.’
Pan Jianchi entered and saw her sitting on the sofa as though she had not moved at all, her eyes slightly red like she had just been crying. He knew the reason why and his heart softened in spite of himself. However, it was hardly the time to talk about that now. Hence he said, ‘Madam, Master has some business and has sent for me.’
This was nothing unusual but Qin Sang’s suspicions were instantly aroused. If it really were the case that Yi Liankai had sent for Pan Jianchi on official business, then there would be no need to inform her of it specially. She looked up at him. His expression was very calm but his eyes betrayed him for he was staring at her almost greedily, as though he wanted to carve her image with his eyes, or rather, with this gaze, he wanted to engrave her in his heart. An ominous feeling welled up in her heart and she asked, ‘Where is your Master now?’
‘At Commander Yao’s.’ He lowered his gaze as though scorched by her line of sight. ‘If there’s nothing else, Madam, I’ll take my leave.’
‘You’re not to go.’ She seemed shocked at the tone of her own voice but added immediately, ‘It’s already so late, what official business can there be? Just tell him I said so; tell him to come back first. Whatever it is can wait until tomorrow.’
Pan Jianchi smiled a little resignedly: ‘The Commander is busy with important matters…’
‘No matter how important, he can’t be skipping meals or going without sleep.’ Qin Sang frowned and said, ‘Zhu Ma, telephone to Commander Yao’s°° residence. Say that I’m feeling unwell and be sure to tell him he should come home quickly.’
Zhu Ma was alarmed and said, ‘Missy, you’re not feeling well? We should send for a physician quickly…’
‘The physician just left, what’s the point of sending for him again?’ Qin Sang said dismissively. ‘I’m just feeling uncomfortable and I’ll be fine once he comes back, so go and telephone him quickly.’
Zhu Ma was elated, thinking that this Missy had seen the light⁴ at last and finally learnt the art of throwing a tantrum.5 What was more, now that she was with child, it went without saying that Master would have to give in to her a little. It was with such pleasing thoughts that Zhu Ma went to make the call.
⁴ 開竅 kāi//qiào: have one’s ideas straightened out; enlightened
5 撒嬌 sā//jiāo: 1. to act like a spoiled child. 2. to throw a tantrum. 3. to act coquettishly. Translation originally published at tranzgeek(DOT)wordpress(DOT)com.
Pan Jianchi shook his head slightly which Qin Sang understood. This was not going to help matters much: she could delay but not postpone it forever. If Yi Liankai had really become suspicious of Pan Jianchi, then all her delaying tactics were useless. But still she had to try; anything was better than helplessly watching him go to his death.
° The city defence command appears to have moved to Commander Yao’s residence. To distinguish between the two, I translate it as ‘city defence command’. The old headquarters where Liankai and Qin Sang are residing in is translated as ‘city defence headquarters’. In Ch. 13.3, Min Hongyu had told Liankai they were going out again shortly but did not say where.
°° Commander Yao’s official rank is division commander. Liankai is Chief Commander of the Coalition Army.
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